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Air France aeroplane at Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris
Photograph: roibu /

It’s official: France has banned short-haul domestic flights

The European country has banned domestic flights if the rail alternative takes less than two-and-a-half hours

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

When it comes to cutting down on carbon emissions and slowing global warming, reducing the amount that we fly is vital. Air travel significantly contributes to global warming and, on an individual level, is likely the most significant way most people are damaging the planet.

In order to try and combat unnecessary air travel, France has decided to take action by banning short-haul domestic flights. Here’s all you need to know about the ban.

Why has France banned short-haul flights?

France’s ban on short-haul flights is designed to drastically reduce carbon emissions. Planes are huge polluters and the idea behind the short-haul ban is to encourage travellers to use trains (which typically pollute much, much less than planes) on routes where there are valid high-speed rail alternatives. 

When does the ban start?

The ban came into effect when the bill was signed on May 23, 2023. In other words, short-haul domestic flights in France are already banned. 

What will it mean for domestic travel? 

Under the new scheme, flights are banned between destinations where there is an existing rail connection that takes less than two-and-a-half hours. To start with, the ban affects routes between Paris and Lyon, Bordeaux and Nantes. The list of restricted flight routes could be extended if the country’s rail connections improve between cities such as Marseille and Rennes. However, the ban does not impact connecting flights.

Are short flights actually worse for the environment than long-haul flights?

There’s some debate over whether short-haul flights are, overall, worse for the environment than long-haul ones, largely because long-haul planes are larger and use up more fuel but, on the whole, many more short-haul flights take off around the world every day. There’s no debate, however, that both emit huge amounts of carbon emissions and so significantly contribute to climate change and global warming. 

It’s worth mentioning that there’s also a fair bit of debate over how far countries should go in banning short-haul flights. Greenpeace, for example, has argued that all flights in the EU that have a rail alternative under six hours in length should be banned. 

In any case, France's initiative is a step in the right direction. Here’s hoping that this is the beginning of a rail-first European travel revolution!

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